Healthy swaps – beat the January blues!

Happy new year!

It’s officially that time of year when everyone rejoins the gym, starts a detox or goes on a diet to lose those extra pounds gained from too many mince pies or this just me???

This year however, I’ve tried to make some healthy food swaps that are easy to stick to rather than making resolutions to give up the foods I love completely. By sticking to these swaps I can still eat the food I enjoy but not limit myself in what I can cook. I’ve also decided that the odd glass of wine or take away is not a bad thing. Everything in moderation!

These are my 5 food swaps for January…

Beans

These can be added to many of your existing recipes or used instead of meat to help you get extra protein but cut down on the fat content. Try adding pinto beans to a Mexican chicken stew or black beans to your fajitas instead of meat.

Pulses

Just like beans these are so nutritious and if cooked correctly are so tasty! Most pulses come in tins now so there is no need for soaking. Use puy lentils instead of mince in a shepherds pie or green lentils in a warm salad.

Turkey

By January most people shudder at the word but this is a meat that should be enjoyed all your round! The meat is very low in fat and can be used instead of most meats to create a turkey curry or even using turkey mince to make your spaghetti bolognese.

Fat-free Yoghurt

A lot of recipes call for cream to be added which can double the calories in your meals! Swap the double cream in your pasta dishes for fat free yoghurt or try using in dips to get that creamy flavour but in a much healthier way.

Grains

Try swapping your traditional accompaniments such as rice and pasta to something a little more light and healthy like quinoa, cous cous or bulgar wheat You can add your own flavours and it is so easy to prepare. Also makes a fantastic salad addition for lunch boxes.

Hopefully by making some slight changes along with trying to get a couple of hours of exercise in each weekI will lose a few pounds without getting the January blues!

Mince pie pin wheels and a festive film!

Had a rare day off today to do some final Christmas shopping, mainly the big food shop!

The weather was awful, I would much rather it be cold than throwing it down with rain.
My new favourite drink in the whole world to get warm is Chai Latte! I usually spend far too much in Starbucks on these. So glad I discovered this instant powder so I can enjoy them at home snuggled up on the sofa.

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Personally, I don’t think there is much better than snuggling up on the sofa with a Christmas movie, a cup of tea and mince pie. Throw in a cute kitty and I’m in heaven!

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When I have time I love to get baking. I much prefer homemade mince pies to shop bought because you get that fresh baked smell wafting wafting through the house. If you want to make some classy looking pin wheels in a hurry. All you need to do is cut puff pastry sheets into 10cm squares cutting slits from the centre into each corner. Place a tablespoon of mincemeat into the centre. I used a lovely cranberry and port one. Fold alternate corners into the centre and top with a star. After 20-25 mins in the oven you can sit on the sofa and watch your favourite festive film!

This was my movie of choice!

My top 5 Christmas movies.

1 – Elf
2 – Muppet’s Christmas Carol
3 – Love Actually
4 – Home Alone
5 – The Holiday

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What is your favourite Christmas movie?

Christmas Cake Pops!

In the words of Noddy Holder, it’s Christmas!

Love this time of year so much! I spent Sunday making the house look festive and indulging in a little bit of Christmas baking!

After a batch of mince pies I decided to use up some of the boyfriend’s birthday cake leftovers and turn it into some cake pops!

If you haven’t made cake pops before I strongly recommend you watch the queen of cake pops tutorial as I really could not explain it any better – Bakerella

I started out with my left over chocolate fudge cake then added chocolate Philadelphia until I got a mouldable consistency. I use the processor to whizz the cake into crumbs but add the Philly by hand as I find it is easy to add too much making a very wet cake pop. I find the Philly is less sweet than buttercream, but either works ok. Cake pops are a great way of using leftover buttercream or cakes which haven’t quite worked out the way you planned!

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Once you have your mixture, roll it into balls and put it in the freezer for 15 mins to firm up. I cannot stress enough DO THIS! It will not work otherwise! Once you have removed them from the freezer dip the sticks into chocolate or candy melts then insert into the balls, then freeze again for 5-10mins whilst melting your coating.

For mine I used chocolate flavoured coating by Silverspoon as I personally find Candy Melts too sickly. I would recommend having a box with some hole in or some polystyrene to put your cake pops in to dry. You can buy stands but it really depends how often you think you will use it. A box does the job!

I like indulging in a bit of sugarcraft, it is very therapeutic! You can get so many cutters now and every colour of icing under the sun!

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As you can see I added some white icing to look like cream and some holly to turn mine into Christmas pudding cake pops! I got the plungers from eBay. The icing is Renshaws, it rolls out really well!

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Remember, remember…

It’s Bonfire night!

One of my favourite nights of the year! I love getting wrapped up warm and standing by the fire.

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This year I went to my parent’s house for some food and fireworks.

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We enjoyed a fantastic BBQ and mushy peas. I’ve been told mushy peas with mint sauce is a Nottingham tradition?

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It was great toasting marshmallows on the fire and making s’mores! The mallow goes gooey and melts the choccy on the digestives. Delicious!

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One of my favourite bonfire traditions is Yorkshire Parkin! The cake is sweet, sticky and tasty!

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I used http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1751649/yorkshire-parkin recipe. I love the smell of the spices and syrups when I’m making this!

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Whatever you’re doing this bonfire night, stay safe and have lots of fun!

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Autumn Spiced Sables

Autumn is here!

On a blustery Sunday afternoon there is nothing better than some easy baking!

I was craving some biscuits to go with an extra large cup of tea so decided to try out my new autumn leaf-shaped cutters. These were a bargain at £2.89 on eBay!

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I wanted a simple recipe so adapted a BBC recipe and just added a tablespoon of mixed spice to give it a bit more flavour. The dough was quite easy to work with, I did put it in the freezer for 5 mins halfway through to firm up as my kitchen was quite warm. http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/medley_of_mini_sables_84193

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I ended up with what felt like hundred of these little biscuits because the cutters were quite small. The biscuits were really tasty and melted in the mouth. They were really light, I easily ate my way through 5 or 6 of the little biscuits.

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My other half and his two brothers ate the rest whilst playing on the Xbox, they also gave them the thumbs up!

I’m now eyeing up some Halloween and Christmas cutters so watch this space for some more biscuit experimenting!

Cake Clubs

Whilst 8,000 people were busy running in the Robin Hood half marathon on Sunday around 30 others were raising money in an entirely different fashion…EATING CAKE!

Cake Eaters Anonymous, held once a month, met at a new venue overlooking Nottingham Castle, in the lovely Fothergills! Over £200 was raised for Nottingham Neonatal Charity which supports the NHS in buying the latest equipment to give premature babies a fighting chance of life.

There were some particularly delicious cakes this month so it was very difficult to choose my 3 slices! The diet started Monday…

Here’s what I made.

Courgette Spiced Mini Bundts

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I adapted the recipe a little using Stork baking liquid (which I used for the first time and can highly recommend!) instead of vegetable shortening and natural yoghurt instead of half-and-half.

Check out the recipe.

I also made mine in some little silicone Bundts which I bought from Lakeland for only £2.99!

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These were delicious, the walnut toffee-like topping with the spicy, moist cake had a real Autumnal flavour.

Here’s a few photos of the other gorgeous cakes…

Let me know what you think, do you attend a cake club? Ever thought about setting one up in your area?

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Cooking for your cat…

As the title of my blog suggests cats and cooking are my favourite hobbies.

It’s not often that two such contrasting hobbies could over-lap, but hurrah it appears that I can at last combine the two!

A few weeks back I purchased ‘Cooking for your cat‘ from Amazon and I am still yet to cook anything out of it if I’m perfectly honest.

I was curious to see if anyone else has tried any of the recipes from this book or whether anyone has a super-fussy cat who would only eat home cooked delicacies.

Maybe you don’t like the commercial pet foods and want to make your own more healthy options for your cat. I’m interested to find out….

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/images/1445415941/ref=dp_image_0/277-3670719-6844006?ie=UTF8&n=266239&s=books

The book boasts “Healthy Recipes – seasoned with affection” and have a vast array of interesting treats inside.

There are some winter warmers such as Lamb Hotpot with Carrot and some more indulgent meals like Salmon Trout Mousse.

By chance when reading through one of my favourite blogs from Joy the Baker I also noticed this kitty-themed recipe which I might begin with before embarking on anything more adventurous.

http://joythebaker.com/2012/09/chewy-cat-treats-for-cats/

http://joythebaker.com/2012/09/chewy-cat-treats-for-cats/

I think I would cook something up as an occasional treat as my Eric is spoilt enough!

What do you think? Would you ever cook up a Frittata for your feline friend?